Soft pretzels were a big deal growing up in Pennsylvania. Every weekend my dad and I would drive to this mom and pop pretzel shop and buy a huge bag of hot soft pretzels. I loved watching the bakers roll the dough, lightening fast, then dunking the whole rack of pretzels into the boiling solution.
It’s no wonder that I made it my mission to become a master pretzel baker. I tried many pretzel recipes and finally settled into this Amish variation. It’s very similar to those delicious but oh-so commercial pretzels that everyone loves from the mall. These pretzels take me back to ones that I’ve had at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia and at bakeries in Lancaster, PA.
The dough starts with all of the ingredients being mixed together and kneaded via a mixer and dough hook for about 5 minutes. This simple mixing method is known as the straight dough method in the pastry world. Straight to the point! Then it’s time for a rise to allow the dough to double in volume and develop some flavor; this shouldn’t take more then 45 minutes max.
What makes this particular style of pretzel unique is the thin roll of the dough and the baking soda wash. Most Amish soft pretzels end up fairly large but still maintain a thinner roll and they have a softer ‘pastry’ like texture. This I believe is due in part to only dunking the pretzels in the baking soda bath as opposed to boiling them. If you would prefer your pretzels to have a crunchier bagel like crust to them, simply bring the baking soda and water solution to a boil and boil the pretzels for about 30 seconds on each side before placing them on trays.
But whatever you do, please don’t forget the final brushing of butter. I promise, it makes these pretzels so very irresistible. You’ll also want to seek out that wheat germ, it adds a hearty nuttiness to the pretzels and it’s readily available at the grocery store.
- 1¼ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons honey, or sugar
- 1 envelop instant dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons wheat germ (optional but recommended)
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- ¾ cup bread flour
- 2½- 2¾ cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- Soaking Solution
- 3 cups of very hot water
- ⅓ cup baking soda
- Coarse salt for sprinkling
- 2 oz melted unsalted butter
- Add the honey and yeast to the hot water and mix to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes
- Add the bread flour, 2½ cups of all purpose flour, wheat germ and salt to your mixer bowl and combine
- Add the water/yeast mixture and the melted butter to the flour and mix on low with the dough hook attachment for about 1-2 minutes.
- If the dough is very sticky add some of the remaining flour
- Mix on low to knead the dough for about 5 minutes, the dough should be stretchy and slightly sticky
- Spray the dough with cooking spray and roll it around to oil the bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rise until doubled in volume; about 30-45 minutes
- Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 450*F and line two baking sheets with parchment then spray with cooking spray
- In an large bowl or cake pan, dissolve the baking soda into the hot water
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured table and divide into 10 equal portions
- Shape as shown in the video or as desired
- Dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution, turning so each side is submerged, then allow to drip off for a few seconds
- Arrange the pretzels onto the prepared sheet pans, sprinkle with salt and bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until a deep golden brown
- Brush the freshly baked pretzels with the melted butter